It would be really nice if my social anxiety were maladaptive. If it were a totally irrational reaction. If it were only holding me back, and overcoming it would only make me happier and allow me to have more and better friendships, social interactions, etc.
It’s not really that maladaptive, though.
Every so often I meet someone who acts like me except they talk more, and people hate them. People make fun of them, cut them off, talk over them. They have no patience for people who say the wrong things at the wrong times, or take too long, or ask too many questions. Or they have just enough patience to let them hang around while constantly pointing out that they’re annoying and don’t really belong.
I didn’t pick being silent and afraid of attention. I’ve never thought of it as a good thing. I admire and envy Mr. Big Fluffy Dog for being able to deal with all that not-quite-friendly needling and still open his mouth ever. But the fact is it protects me. People tolerate me who wouldn’t if I was weird in a way they had to listen to instead of a quiet way.
It’s only a little maladaptive. I could be worse off without it.
To have more actual social interactions, I have to overcome my fear, and also magically somehow
- stop having trouble hearing people in noisy places
- start understanding the flow of conversation and when to talk
- start getting my thoughts in order more quickly so I can say them at the right times
- stop pausing, using the wrong word, etc. all the time
- stop mumbling or whatever I do, I don’t even know, obviously I think I talk reasonably clearly but people don’t always understand me so who knows?
- do the right thing with eye contact at all times
- do the right thing with my tone of voice at all times
I have to overcome my worries about getting every little thing perfect while also getting every little thing perfect, is my point.
(And the truth is, I’ve made progress! I do have slightly more capacity for this stuff than I was using. I am doing less unproductive worrying. I am actually learning a lot about the flow of conversations and my ability to initiate them, etc. I just want to state for the record that I’m making progress at a fundamentally contradictory task. I am trying to get better at something and also spend less time thinking about whether I’m doing it right.)
But right now I mostly just hate the whole world, everything that made me this afraid and also made it a reasonable feeling.